Introducing a New Feline to the "Family"
A guide to help you with your new multiple cat household
Animal lovers everywhere often choose to have more than one companion pet in their family. Or as the case may have it…circumstances make the decision for many individuals.
As an adoption agency, we are always excited by the possibility of a family considering the rescue of more than one homeless pet. But nobody should bring an additional pet into their home without careful planning and some research.
Introducing two pets to one another is never as easy as a handshake and a “Pleased to meet you.” An animal's ability to co-exist with other pets is affected by many variables such as temperament, sex and age. All pets are territorial, some more than others. Elderly animals often experience a great deal of frustration with the younger set and the “teenagers” are often so busy growing and experiencing life that they are hard pressed to respect the senior pets in the home. In the case of felines, male cats tend to be much more playful than females.
So what is a pet lover to do? The advice below is designed to help you introduce a new cat into the mix. We will explore canine introductions in a future article.
1. Adopt carefully. Rely on the resources and the expertise of the adoption staff that you work with to help you choose a cat or kitten that is suited to your environment. You will need to think about things like age, sex, overall health, temperament and previous experience living with multiple pets.
2. Be realistic in your expectations. The amount of time that it takes for cats to get used to each other is exceedingly broad. Some are able to get along after a few days while others may take up to six months.
3. Never bring your new cat home and immediately thrust him or her in front of your resident cats. They will all need a good deal of time to get to know one another. Additionally, many cats experience stress from any car ride so they are not likely to be in the mood for a meet and greet upon arrival.
4. Create a comfortable environment in a private room for the new cat prior to bringing him or her home. This should include food, water, litter box, scratching post, toys and bedding.
5. Your new cat should have the privacy and safety of this room for as long as it takes to safely introduce him or her to your resident pets.
6. Expect to hear hissing and spitting through the door with each other. This is normal and the beginning of their exploration of the “pecking order”.
7. Start getting everyone used to each others scents by letting them smell each other indirectly while remaining in their seperate spaces. Towels, bedding and toys make good options for this exercise.
8. After all cats are accustomed to the new scents, pull a switch. Let your new cat explore the rest of the house while your resident cats are confined to the new cat’s room.
9. The next step is to slowly progress towards face to face introductions. Start by cracking the door to the room and keeping it steady with a door stop on either side. This activity needs to be supervised and expect that there may be some hissing and spitting.
10. Finally, you are ready to have a full meeting. Make sure that you are supervising this activity closely. Ignore hissing and spitting but be ready to step in and separate them if a physical battle breaks out.
11. Slow and steady will win the race. Never force the cats into each other’s space. Make sure to lavish them with praise whenever they are doing something right. You want them to learn that “getting along” is the right thing.
12. Throughout this process, make sure all of your pets, including the new one are receiving healthy, extra doses of love. This will help them to associate pleasure with the presence of each other.
We recommend consulting with an animal behavior specialist when undertaking the training and socialization of any new pet. Their expertise can help you deal with all the challenges that you may face during this process.
As a final note, there are some cats that do not become best friends but develop a tolerance level that will allow them to live peacefully in the same home. But for some, they are never able to live with each other. If this should occur, despite all your efforts, the most humane thing to do may be to consider rehoming the new cat. But this should be a last resort after all training and socialization measures have been exhusted.
CT Humane Society cat handling and placement professionals were consulted for the purposes advice integrity for this article.